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Theories of Democratic Transitions


Eric Davis
Fall 2014

Course Description
Conceptual perspectives
In the past two decades, the concept of democratic transitions has become a central
analytic focus in political science. This course examines the normative, epistemological and
conceptual underpinnings of this concept. Because this conceptual framing is of recent origin,
having proliferated after the collapse of communism, we need to ask to what extent the idea of a
democratic transition represents a moment of Western triumphalism in the wake of communisms
collapse, and to what extent a legitimate theoretical approach applicable across time and space.
To interrogate the notion of democratic transitions suggests a number of questions: First,
what is the nature of the two core concepts that comprise this theory, namely democracy and
transition. Is the concept of democracy subject to a universal or trans-historical definition,
or has it changed over time? Did democracy mean the same thing in ancient Athens, for
example, as it does in the modern era, e.g., in contemporary United States, India, Spain or Japan?
Is there a concept of local democracy, namely the idea of understandings of democracy that are
geographically specific? In short, what are the normative underpinnings and empirical content of
the concept of democracy?
Second, what do we mean by the concept of transition? Do all transitions assume the
same form? Is the notion of transition the same in early modern Europe as it is in postcommunist Eastern Europe and non-Western societies in the 21st century? What analytic
elements need to be incorporated for us to explain the transition process in a truly theoretical
Finally, how do we know when a transition is successful? What exactly is meant by a
democratic consolidation? Are democracies ever fully consolidated? Does the process of
democratization ever end, or is it part of an ongoing process that is constantly characterized by
contestation and challenges to authority? Alexis de Tocqueville predicted an imminent
universalization of democracy in the 1840s. After WWI, the war to end all wars, and
following the defeat of fascism in World War II, there were further predictions suggesting that
the ascendancy of democracy was imminent. Following the collapse of communism, a Pax
Americana suggested that universal democracy was just around the corner.
Nevertheless, the struggle to sustain and further institutionalize democratic governance
continues throughout the world, even in the United States. During the past few years, crises and
instability in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Southeast Asia suggest the
possibility of the collapse of fragile democracies and the possibility of the failure of democratic
transitions that are in their early stages, e.g., in the Arab Spring countries.
What these thoughts suggest is that the theorist who is committed to democracy in a
normative as well as analytic-empirical sense needs to be extremely cautious about accepting
formulaic propositions about the transition to and the long-term sustainability of democratic
governance. It also suggests the need to explore the antithesis of democratic governance, namely
the causes of authoritarianism. After all, does not democratization occur after the collapse or
atrophy of authoritarian rule? In viewing the process of democratic transition largely in linear
terms, much of the literature fails to account for the ability of authoritarian legacies to

undermine and impede the democratization process. Think, for example, of the legacy of distrust
that exist in many post-authoritarian countries, such as South Africa, Iraq, and Ukraine.
While we may seek to develop a more open-ended approach to democratic change, this
does not prevent us from formulating testable hypotheses about the causal factors that promote
democracy, as well as those that impede its implementation and lead instead to political
repression. Finally, how can we synthesize small N case study oriented research on
democratic transitions with larger structural and especially quantitative research on the topic?
Are these two approaches antithetical to one another or can they be reconciled and even enrich
one another?
We will concentrate on six models in the study of democratic transitions: the
socioeconomic requisites, political culture, institutional, comparative historical/political
economy, elite bargaining models, and ethnic conflict models. The classic approach is typified
by Seymour Martin Lipsets famous essay, Socioeconomic Requisites of Democracy: Economic
Development and Political Legitimacy, published in 1959. The political culture model involves
a variety of approaches, including those drawn from modernization theory, symbolic interaction
theory, social psychology and hegemony theory. The institutional approach draws upon
traditional formal-legal analysis, procedural analysis, as well as more recent historicalinstitutional models. The comparative historical/political economy model, which draws upon
structural variables, focuses on historical trajectories which result in either democratic or
authoritarian outcomes. Finally, The elite bargaining model, which focuses on decision-making
and the role of political elites in transitions from authoritarianism to democratic governance, is
based in an actor-centric approach. While there is considerable overlap between these
approaches, we will seek to identify readings in terms of the dominant conceptual framework
that they employ in the study of democratic transitions.
Despite these theoretical efforts, there is considerable amount of variance that is not
explained by democratic transitions theories. Such theories have said very little about ethnic and
sectarian strike, the role of corruption, gender inequality and neighborhood effects, i.e., the
impact of surrounding countries on a nation-statess efforts to implement a transition to
democracy. The role of illiberal democracy as implied by concept of competitive
authoritarianism also not well theorized to date. We will attempt to address some of these
shortcomings during the course of the seminar.
Analysis of the seminar readings
To systematize our study of the democratic transitions literature, we will analyze course
readings according to the following criteria. Students should pose and be able to answer the
following questions for each seminar reading:

First, what is the main question and derivative questions posed by the author(s)?

Second, why are these questions significant for an understanding of democratic


Third, what types of relationships/hypotheses does the author test in her/his/their study?
Do you agree that these are the most appropriate hypotheses to pose in relation to the
authors main question?

Fourth, what types of conclusions does she/he/they reach and do you find them

Fifth, what conceptual framework and methodological approach(es) inform the reading?

Sixth, what sources/database(s) does the author(s) use in the study of democratic
transitions and do they provide, in you view, an effective basis for conducting the study at

Finally what is your assessment of the author(s) ability to test and come to conclusions
about the hypotheses offered in the reading given the concepts and methods she/he/they
Course requirements
Course requirements entail developing a journal on Sakai which critically analyzes each
of the course readings. Journal entries should follow the format of questions listed above and be
posted in your Drop Box. They should replicate normal note taking and be no more than 1-2
pages. The course also requires periodic Reaction Papers, which critically analyze seminar
readings, serving as a co-discussant for a particular weeks readings, and completing a final
examination at the end of the seminar. Students will be asked to submit 3 questions with
accompanying rationales that will be used to comprise the final examination. Please expect to
attend the seminar on a regular basis. .
Office hours: W. 2:00- 4:00 pm, and by appointment, Hickman Hall 501; email:; website:; course readings: ; blog: ; Twitter @NewMidEast

Course Outline
I. Introduction (Sept. 3, 10)
Dahl, Polyarchy, 1-32
Macpherson, C.B., Democratic Theory: Ontology and Technology, Democratic
Theory: Essays in Retrieval, 24-38
Dankwart Rustow, Transitions to Democracy: Towards a Dynamic Model, in Lisa
Anderson, Transitions to Democracy, 14-41
Huntington, Samuel P., The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late
Twentieth Century, 3-30
Knight, W. Andy, Democracy and Good Governance, The Oxford Handbook of the
United Nations, eds., Thomas Weiss and Sam Dawes. New York: Oxford
University Press, 620-633
Linz, Juan & Alfred Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation, 3-15
Coppedge, Michael, Democratization and Research Methods, 11-75
Tilly, Charles, What is Democracy?, in Democracy, 1-24
Acemoglu, Daron and James Robinson, Economic Origins of Dictatorship and
Democracy, 15-47
David Collier and Robert Adcock, Democracy and Dichotomies: A Pragmatic
Approach to Choices about Concepts, APSR (1999) 2: 537-565 .
Diamond, Larry, Universal Democracy?, Policy Review 119 (June 2003):
Diamond, Larry et al, Consolidating the Third Wave Democracies, xiii-xlvii
Huber, Evelyn et al, The Paradoxes of Formal Democracy: Formal,
Participatory and Social Dimensions, in L. Anderson,
Transitions to Democracy, 168-192

Nietzsche, Friedrich, The Uses and Abuses of History, 5-73

Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History, in Illuminations,
Sheldon Wolin, Norm and Form: The Constitutionalizing of Democracy,
in P. Euben et al, Athenian Political Thought and the
Reconstruction of Democracy, 29-58
Barry R. Strauss, The Melting Pot, the Mosaic and the Agora, i
Athenian Political Thought 252-264
II. Classical conceptualizations of democracy (Sept. 17)
Lijphart, Arend, Patterns of Democracy, 1-47
Hirschmann, Nancy, Gender, Class & Freedom, 1-28
Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 31-98
Held, Models of Democracy, 16-120
Isaiah Berlin, Two Concepts of Liberty, in Four Essays on Liberty, 119-172
Robert Dahl, On Democracy, 35-43
Almond, Gabriel and Sidney Verba, The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and
Democracy in Five Countries, 1-44
III. Transitions to democracy I: Early modern Europe (Sept. 24)
Moore, Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy, 3-110
Edward Muir, Civic Ritual in Renaissance Venice, 1-61
Anderson, Perry, Lineages of the Absolutist State, 43-59
Skocpol, Theda, States and Social Revolutions, 47-111
Tocqueville, The Old Regime and the French Revolution, 97-120, 138-148
IV. Transitions to democracy II: Late modern Europe (Oct. 1)
Held, Models of Democracy, 121-232
Hirschmann, Gender, Social Class & Freedom, 213-229, 266-273
John Dewey, Democracy and Education, 81-99
Scott London, Organic Democracy: The Philosophy of John Dewey,
V. Transitions to Democracy III: An American Exceptionalism? (Oct. 8)
Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 246-315, 572-584
Huntington, Samuel, Political Order in Changing Societies, 93-139
Seymour Martin Lipset, The First New Nation: The United States in Historical
and Comparative Perspective, 61-98
Moore, Social Origins, 111-155
Hartz, Louis, The Liberal Tradition in America, 89-144
George Wilson Pierson, Tocqueville in America, 3-39

VI. Transitions to Democracy IV: Colonial Legacies the Case of the Middle East (Oct. 15)
Davis, Eric, Memories of State: Politics, History and Collective Identity in Modern Iraq,
Davis, Eric, 10 Conceptual Sins in Analyzing Middle East Politics, The New Middle
East, Jan 28, 2009:
Abou El Fadl, Khaled, Islam and the Challenge of Democracy, 3-46
Zakaria, Farid, The Islamic Exception, The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at
Home and Abroad, 119-159
Fish, Stephen, Islam and Authoritarianism, World Politics, 55/1 (Oct., 2002): 4-37
Jamal, Amaney, and Vickie Langhor, Moving Beyond Democracy: What Causes
Variations in the Level of Gender Equality across Arab States? (unpub. ms.)
Hanafi, Hasan, Alternative Conceptions of Civil Society: A Reflective Islamic
Approach, in Simone Chambers and Will Kymlicka, eds. Alternative
Conceptions of Civil Society, 172-189
Davis, Abd al-Karim Qasim, Sectarian Identities and the Rise of Corporatism in
Iraq Kufa Review, 2/3 (Summer 2013): 9-28
Norton, Augustus Richard, Thwarted Politics: The Case of Egypts Hizb
al-Wasat, in R. Hefner, ed., Remaking Muslim Politics, 133-160
Davis, Eric, The Historical Genesis of the Public Sphere in Iraq, 19001963:
Implications for Building Democracy in the Post-Bathist Era, in Seteney
Shami, Publics, Politics and Participation: Locating the Public Sphere in
the Middle East and North Africa, N.Y.: Social Science Research Council
Books, 2010, 385-427
Davis, The Concept of Revival and the Study of Islam and Politics, in B.
Stowasser, The Islamic Impulse
Timothy Mitchell, Colonising Egypt, 34-127
Partha Chaterjee, The Politics of the Governed: Reflections on Popular
Politics in Most of the World, 53-78
Davis, E., Challenging Colonialism: Bank Misr and Egyptian
Industrialization, 1920-1941, 12-79
Davis, E., Ideology, Social Class and Islamic Radicalism in Egypt,
Binder, Leonard, Islamic Liberalism, 243-335
E. Davis, Representations of the Middle East at American Worlds Fairs, 18761904, in Abbas Amanat and Magnus Berhardsson, eds., The United
States and the Middle East: Cultural Encounters,
VII. Theories of Democratic Transitions: the Socioeconomic Requisites Model (Oct. 22)
Lipset, Seymour Martin, Some Social Prerequisites of Democracy: Economic
Development and Political Legitimacy, APSR, 53 (Mar. 1959): 69-105
Deutsch, Karl, Social Mobilization and Political Development, APSR, 55 (Sept.
1961): 634-647
Przezworkski, Adam et al, Democracy and Development, 78-128

Lipset, Seymour Martin, The Social Requisites of Democracy Revisited,

American Sociological Review, 59 (February 1994): 1-22
Dahl, Robert, Polyarchy, 62-123
VIII. Theories of Democratic Transitions: Political Cultural Models (Oct. 29)
Ronald Inglehart, Culture and Democracy, in Lawrence Harrison and Samuel
Huntington, eds., Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress,
Francis Fukuyama, Social Capital, in Harrison and Huntington, Culture
Matters, 98-111
Charles Tilly, Trust and Rule, 125-150
Bocock, Robert, Hegemony, 21-39, 55-102
Rothstein, Bo, The Quality of Government: Corruption, Social Trust, and
Inequality in International Perspective, 58-76
E. Davis, The New Iraq: The Uses of Historical Memory, The Journal of
Democracy, 16/3 (July 2005):
Putnam, Robert, Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern
Italy, 163-186
Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, 305-340
Held, Models of Democracy, 231-273
Kubik, Jan, The Symbols of Power and the Power of Symbols, 183-238
Kessler, Mark, Democratic Concern and Islamic Resurgence: Converging
Dimensions of the Arab Worlds Political Agenda, Democracy
and Its Limits: Lessons from Asia, Latina America and the Middle
East, 262-299
Binder, The Natural History of Development Theory, Islamic
Liberalism, 24-84
Wendy Brown, States of Injury: Power and Freedom in Late Modernity,
Adam Przeworski et al, Democracy and Development: Political
Institutions and Well-Being in the World, 1950-1990, 13-77
Leonard Wantchekon, The Paradox of 'Warlord' Democracy: A
Theoretical Investigation, in APSR 98/1 (February 2004): 17-33
Sheri Berman, Civil Society and the Collapse of the Weimar Republic,
World Politics 49/3 (1997): 401-429
Sheldon Garon, From Meiji to Heisei: The State and Civil Society in
Japan, in Frank J. Schwartz and Susan J. Pharr, The State of
Civil Society in Japan, 42-62
IX. Theories of democratic transitions: institutional models (Nov. 5)
North, Douglass, Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance,
Lijphart, Arendt, Patterns of Democracy, 90-115, 143-170
Capoccia, Giovanni and R. Daniel Kelemen, The Study of Critical Junctures:

Theory, Narrative, and Counterfactuals in Historical Institutionalism,

World Politics, 59/3 (Apr. 2007):
Garrett, Geoffrey, R. Daniel Kelemen, and Heiner Schultz, The European
Court of Justice, National Governments and Legal Integration in
the European Union, International Organization, 52/1 (Winter
1998): 149-176.
X. Theories of democratic transitions: comparative-historical/political economy models
(Nov. 5, 12)
Mahoney, James and Dietrich Ruschemeyer, Comparative Historical Analysis in
the Social Sciences, 131-176
Levitsky, Steven and Lucan A. Way, Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid
Regimes After the Cold War, 1-83.
Haggard, Stefan and Robert R. Kaufman, The Political Economy of Democratic
Transitions, 25-44
Boix, Carles and Susan C, Stokes, Endogenous Democracy, World Politics

55 ( July 2003), 51749

Houle, Christian, Inequality and Democracy: Why Inequality Harms
Consolidation but Does Not Affect Democratization, World
61/4 (Oct., 2009): 589-622
Ross, Michael L., The Oil Curse: How Petroleum Wealth Shapes the
Development of Nations, 63-109
Boix, Carles, emocracy, Development and the International System, American
Political Science Review, 809-828
Acemoglu and Robinson, Economic Origins, 255-320
Skocpol, Theda, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers, xx-xxi, 1-62, 525-539
Downs, Anthony, An Economic Theory of Democracy, 3-35, 279-300
Ruschemeyer, Dietrich, Evelyne Huber Stephens and John D. Stephens,
Capitalist Development and Democracy, 12-78
Kitschelt, Herbert, Comparative Historical Research and Rational Choice
Theory: The Case of Transitions to Democracy, Theory and
Society, 22/3 (Jun., 1993): 413-427
Macpherson, C.B., Problems of a Non-Market Theory of Democracy,
Democratic Theory: Essays in Retrieval, 39-76
Soros, George, Capitalism versus Open Society, The Soros Lectures, 7595
XI. Theories of democratic transitions: the elite bargaining model (Nov. 19)
Linz, Juan, and Alfred Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transitions and
Consolidation, 66-83


Prez-Daz, Victor, From Civil War to Civil Society: Social Capital in Spain
from the 1930s to the 1990s, in Robert Putnam, ed., Democracies
Flux, 245-287
Linz & Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transitions and Consolidations, 87-115
Gunther, Richard, et al, Democracy in Spain, 79-130
Thomas, Hugh, The Spanish Civil War, 189-220, 247-269
ODonnell, Guillermo, and Philippe Schmitter, Transitions From
Authoritarian Rule, 3-47
Huntington, Samuel, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late
Twentieth Century, 109-161, 164-208, 258-265
Snyder, Jack, From Voting to Violence: Democratization and Nationalist
Conflict 45-91
Verdery, Katherine, Theorizing Socialism: A Prologue to the
Transition,American Ethnologist 18/3 (1991): 419-439
Zambelis, Chris, Strategic Implications of Political Liberalization and
Democratization in the Middle East, Parameters (Autumn 2005):
XII. Ethnic Conflict and Democratic Transitions (Dec. 3)
Snyder, Jack, From Voting to Violence: Democratization and Nationalist Conflict,
Gagnon, V.P., The Myth of Ethnic War, xiii-xxi, 1-51
Davis, Eric, Introduction: the Question of Sectarian Identities in Iraq,
International Journal of Contemporary Studies, 4/3 (2010): 229-242
Kaufman, Stuart, Modern Hatreds: The Symbolic Politics of Ethnic War,
1-48, 65-201
Guibernau, Montserrat, Catalan Nationalism: Francoism, Transition and
Democracy, 34-69
Batatu, Hanna, The Old Social Classes and Revolutionary Movements of
Iraq, 465-482, 764-807
Davis, E, Strategies for Promoting Democracy in Iraq, US Institute of
Peace Special Report, 153 (October 2005);
Eric Davis Will the Arab Spring Bring Democratization to the Middle
East? (unpub. ms.)
Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, 222-266
Petersen, Roger D., Understanding Ethnic Violence, 17-39
Thomas, Robert, Serbia Under Miloevic, 1-24, 163-175
Diamandouros, P. Nikiforos, and F. Stephen Larrabee, Democratization
in South-Eastern Europe: Theoretical considerations and Evolving
Trends, in Experimenting with Democracy: Regime Change in the
Balkans, 24-64
Robinson, Pearl J., Democratization: Understanding the Relationship
Between Regime Change and the Culture of Politics, African

Studies Review (1994) 1, 2: 39-67, 87-102

XIII. Case studies of democratic transitions: Tunisia and Chile instructor (Dec. 3)
XIV. Summations and course evaluation (Dec 10)
XV. Working lunch in preparation for Take Home Final Examination (optional)